BLOOMINGTON – Tom Crean might make $2.3 million a year and have a Final Four berth on his resume, but that doesn't mean he coaches with a has-all-the-answers attitude. Even in summer, when buzz centers on recruiting (the latest hot topic — do the Hoosiers have enough open scholarships to match their offers?), the Indiana basketball coach looks for wisdom in the usual places (can you say sportswriters' columns?) and in a few unusual ones.
Take, for instance, Tony LaRussa and Jim Leyland. Yes, they are baseball managers, LaRussa for the St. Louis Cardinals and Leyland for the Detroit Tigers. But their ability to get the most of out their players offers lessons for any coach, which is why Crean spent time with them last week.
Crean also draws inspiration from St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols, whose Hall-of-Fame-caliber career (he's never hit less than .314 or belted fewer than 32 home runs or driven in less than 103 runs in his eight major league seasons) comes from Hall-of-Fame-caliber effort.
“It always inspires me to see Albert Pujols prepare for games,” Crean said. “His preparation is incredible.”
Crean wants Pujols to talk to the Hoosiers as he did with Marquette while Crean was there. In the meantime, Crean has had guys like Doc Rivers (the Boston Celtics coach and father of Hoosier Jeremiah Rivers) and Del Harris (the Plainfield, Ind., native and longtime former NBA coach) speak to his players and basketball campers. Also showing up at this month's camps were such former Indiana playing greats as Calbert Cheaney, Ted Kitchell, Steve Green, John Lazkowski, Brian Evans, Wayne Radford, Todd Leary, Ray Tolbert and Chris Reynolds.
Back for the first time since Bob Knight was fired in 2000 was former Hoosier coach Lou Watson. Crean hopes to make the 86-year-old Watson, who compiled a 62-60 record while coaching between Hall of Famers Branch McCracken and Knight, a regular around practices and games.
“It's part of the healing process of getting people back to where they feel ingrained in the program again,” Crean said. “I hope he'll come back again.”
Crean also attended the Indiana Pacers free agent workouts.
“It's a great time to learn and be immersed in videos and be around people,” he said.
Crean's nonstop search for wisdom and inspiration comes from his fierce determination to turn around last year's 6-25 record. A key will be getting freshman Maurice Creek (a highly touted guard) and Bawa Muniru (a much-needed big man) academically eligible. Creek is waiting for the results of his SAT score. Muniru is completing a class.
Crean said he and his staff are keeping close contact with them.
“We make sure we see those guys and monitor how they're doing. We keep them engaged and let them know how much we're looking forward to having them here. They're working diligently to fulfill their academic responsibilities. We're confident everything is moving in the right direction.”
The four other freshmen — guards Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford, forwards Derek Elston and Bobby Capobianco — are on campus working out. Returning players Verdell Jones, Tom Pritchard, Devan Dumes, Tijan Jobe, Rivers and Daniel Moore are working at Crean's camps, which will end next week.
Moore's camp work, however, is over. He broke a bone in his left foot doing a demonstration last week. He's out for 10 weeks.
“He looked good,” Crean said. “He looked stronger. The focus is that he continues to build that strength and work on the form of his shot. When something happens, whether it's an injury or aches and pains, you have to work through it. Find a way to get better. That's what we want to do with him.”
Road recruiting hits high gear in July, and IU preparations include meetings with the school's compliance department to ensure no glitches occur.
“We go over new legislation and ask a lot of questions,” Crean said.
Crean, in his restore-IU-to-glory quest, can't get enough answers.